Australian stocks extend gains to 2-month high on banking and technology

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March 23 (Reuters)Australian shares rose on Wednesday, led by banking and technology stocks, as investors assess the increased possibility of rapid interest rate hikes following hawkish comments from the US Federal Reserve, although a collapse in raw materials raw has limited gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index .AXJO rose 0.5% to 7,380.40 points at 0008 GMT, its highest level since Jan. 19. The benchmark index closed up 0.9% on Tuesday.

Global market investors weighed US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments on moving “quickly” to raise rates and perhaps “more forcefully” to prevent an upward spiral price does not take root.

finance .AXFJ climbed 1.1% to their highest levels in more than four months, with the country’s four largest lenders advancing between 0.4% and 1.1%.

Home Technology Index .AXIJ gained 3.4%, after its counterpart the Nasdaq .IXIC closed higher on Tuesday.

ASX-listed shares of Block Inc SQ2.AX and computer sharing CPU.AX increased by 8.5% and 1.4% respectively.

Limit Gains, Metals and Mining Index .AXMM fell 0.9%, following a 3.5% jump in the previous session and a five-day winning streak, due to weak iron ore prices. IRON-ORE/

Rio Tinto heavyweights RIO.AX and BHP Group BHP.AX fell 0.4% and 1.7%, respectively, while rival Fortescue Metals Group FMG.AX added 0.2%.

Energy values .AXEJ fell 0.1% as oil prices dipped slightly overnight after European Union countries seemed unlikely to agree to join the United States in a Russian embargo on the oil in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine. WHERE

Oil and Gas Explorer Woodside Petroleum WPL.AX was trading flat, while Santos STO.AX down 0.3%.

Bullion prices fell more than 1% to a nearly week-long low, dragging down local gold stocks .AXGD down 1%. GOL/

North Star Resources NST.AX and Newcrest Mining NCM.AX fell 1.5% and 1.2%, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 fell 0.8% to 12,098.34, set for its worst day since March 8, if losses hold.

Fisher & Paykel Health FPH.NZ fell 9.2% after the medical device maker forecast a 14% fall in annual revenue.

(Reporting by Upasana Singh; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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